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Conservationists Pressure Feds to Protect Rare Grouse

WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for rejecting a petition to protect Columbian sharp-tailed grouse as "endangered" or "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

SANTA FE, N.M. - WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for rejecting a petition to protect Columbian sharp-tailed grouse as "endangered" or "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse has been extirpated from more than 90 percent of its range and it is facing increasing threats to its remaining habitat.

"This is par for the course for the Bush Administration, which hasn’t yet protected an imperiled species without first being ordered by a federal court to do so," said Mark Salvo, Director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for WildEarth Guardians.

The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is the smallest and rarest of six subspecies of sharp-tailed grouse in North America. First described by Lewis and Clark in 1805, the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse was once considered the most abundant grouse in the Intermountain West. The historic range of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse included parts of what became ten western states and one Canadian province. However, by 1900 Columbian sharp-tailed grouse distribution had declined. The subspecies now exists in scattered populations in less than ten percent of its historic range.

Human activities in the West have degraded and eliminated Columbian sharp-tailed grouse habitat, including livestock grazing, conversion of habitat to agriculture, application of herbicides and pesticides, mismanagement of fire, gas and oil development, urban sprawl, and mining. The potential loss of habitat enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program also threatens the subspecies.

"It is unbelievable that we would reduce this grouse to a fraction of its range, and then continue the same land uses that led to its demise in the first place," said Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director for Western Watersheds Project.

Conservation organizations first petitioned to list the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse under the ESA in 1995. The Fish and Wildlife Service eventually found listing "not warranted" in 2000. Conservation organizations petitioned to list the grouse again in 2004 and the Service finally issued an initial "90-day finding" on that petition in 2006 and determined again that the subspecies was "not warranted" for protection under the ESA. However, petitioning organizations contend that the Service violated the ESA by failing to consider important new threats to the grouse, including the potential loss of habitat on private land and the effects of grazing and gas and oil development on the grouse, and failing to properly consider whether the grouse is imperiled in a significant portion of its range.

"The Service has dragged its feet on protecting this grouse since 2000. Every year that passes diminishes our chances of restoring grouse populations. Delayed protection can lead to extinction," stated Salvo.

Please contact Mark Salvo at (503) 757-4221 for a copy of the complaint and further information.

A factsheet on the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is available here


 

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